Thursday, April 14, 2011

Shutdown Showdown

I believe it was Socrates who said it is good to live in interesting times. Although Wikipedia says it's a Chinese curse, I can't that seriously because I've seen them run some misinformation on Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones for three years, notably that his oil and natural gas lease business was based in Oklahoma instead of Arkansas.

Regardless of who said it, this past week was a very interesting time in our nation's capital, and if you get to be a Washington Center intern, then certainly you may experience such interesting times.

I intern for Voice of America, which is an arm of the federal government. It's not like the Social Security Administration or some of the other bureaucratic agencies in Washington, but it still would have had some employees furloughed because of the government shutdown. In my case, I didn't know what was going to happen because I was an intern. Although I wasn't being paid, my transit subsidies could be considered payment and for that reason, I might have been furloughed. I didn't want to be; I wanted to keep coming to work. I love working on VOA 60 every day and get disappointed on days that I don't. So, if the government shut down, I was going to keep going to work until the security guards drove me away.

Of course, even if that would have happened, I still would have been figuring a way to better my career. I would have devoted more time to finding material for my radio show and building my portfolio. I wasn't going to sit around and wait to die of Dutch Elm Disease if the government shut down.

Some of the other interns at federal agencies were looking forward to it. You know, they could take their time off and go sight-see or whatever they do. I wouldn't know; I actually wouldn't know. I'm so engrossed in my work here in Washington, D.C. and also with graduating that I am numb to a great many things. I'm so focused on getting out of college that I can't feel anything right now.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying the city isn't an exciting place to see. It is, but I saw it before when I was 12, 13 years old. So, I'm not missing out on anything, and what I did miss out on when I was 12 and 13 can be supplemented in a relatively short amount of time when I break on through to the other side of this capstone project.

Did I tell you about that? Yeah, I did from last week. Well, the good news is this week I was able to round up my final panelist. He's not from a think tank, but he is a well-read professor at George Washington University and I think he matches the credibility of the conservative panelist I chose. So, everything is fine on that front. My capstone project will be completed when conduct the panel discussion at Voice of America's radio studios this Thursday the 14th. I can't wait; I'm very excited.

It almost didn't happen because of the government shutdown. If the government would have shut down, I'm not sure what would have happened to my studio time because I'm not sure if I could have gotten into the building. But that wasn't stopping me from carrying out my capstone project; I called around town to see if there were any free radio studios I could use for thirty minutes. I wasn't going to let my capstone project get swept up the political machinery.

But let's do a recap of last week. On Monday, we had programming and Dr. Lawrence Korb, a former administrator in the Reagan administration, spoke to us on foreign policy, notably Libya. I liked the guy's approach. He stood out in front of the podium and engaged us like a Pentecostal preacher. I mean, look at these photos I took. Parts of them are blurry because the guy wouldn't stay still.

Of course, I was sitting next to the same crazino who told me to put my camera away, even though I cleared it with one of the supervisors of the event. Remember that one? Remember the photographic fief from the last discussion panel three weeks ago? Oh, he looked over at my camera phone like your best friend's crazy cocker spaniel when a 1991 Chevy Caprice would drive down the street. He was ready to strike; I can guarantee it. That's why I made sure to snap a few quick pictures and put my camera away.

And, like always, they opened up the microphone to ask questions and some people gave lectures instead. TWC really ought to invest in a vaudeville hook. I don't want to knock on the foreign students because it really takes a lot of moxie to ask a question in front of 100 students in a language not your own. So, I accept their rambling. I don't like it when homegrown students get up there and do the ol' two-for-one. Oh, and another one they did was right when we thought the last of the students had asked a question, another one would jump up to get in line. This happened about three times. Finally, the administrators cut 'em off and we could leave.

What does that make me? A mean guy for telling you about that? No, I think it's what you'll feel too whenever you become a student at The Washington Center. There will be days when you're interesting in the programming and the lectures, but you really don't have the patience for the questions because A) they're the final event before you can leave, B) you're hungry enough to eat a boot, and C) you're tired enough to beat the band.

Anyway, whatever.

So this week was all about the cherry blossoms. Actually, the past two weeks were. This weekend, I had a chance to go out and see some of them across town:

I also got to see people enjoying the temperate weather out on the National Mall. There was some kickball tournament going on.

I don't know about you, but just witnessing scenes like this makes me feel more patriotic and proud of my country than any piece of legislation Congress passes or executive order the President signs. There's just something reassuring and timeless about scenes like that. The day you don't see scenes like that on the National Mall is the day you know America's in trouble.

Good gravy -- I don't mean to sound like a prophet of doom! I don't know. Maybe it's the work; it's getting to me. I'm just so focused on graduating and getting out of school that I've become numb to certain things and I'm starting to revert back to my sarcastic self. But I don't know if it's even my sarcastic self that's seeping through. It's more like a chilled logical persona that has no time for games and frivolity. I just want to bust through this week like a brick wall and come out the other side ready to bust a move. I'm so ready to get this capstone project over with.

Before I forget, I want to warn you about the vast size of the National Mall. It's something that gets lost when you're down there in the National Mall or looking at a map planning your Saturday afternoon with the blue fanny pack and the white sneakers and the Polaroid camera from 1993. You think it's all so close together, but you really don't know until you've walked a good hour and a half to get to these sites. So, let this picture instructional for you:

Look to the houses on the right, just above them. That's the Capitol. Now, look over to your left before you get to the air traffic control tower. That's the Washington Monument. DO YOU SEE HOW FAR IT IS BETWEEN THE TWO SITES? That's an incredible distance, and you really do put a burden on yourself and that chick in the floor above you that you try to impress every day by timing your "coincidental" meetings in the elevator when you two get off work. So, don't be afraid to take a cab or the Metro. You know, there won't be a Needles there to call you a chicken.

All right, before we get out of here, let's close up shop with another one of my dad's famous sayings:

"like a fat girl at a fricassee"

Definition: a natural pairing

Usage: I'm always working on VOA 60 like a fat girl at a fricassee."

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